Thursday, April 26, 2012

Teamster astronaut (yup) running for Congress in CA

A former member of Local 601 who rose from the fields of California to a flight on the International Space Shuttle is running for Congress in California. As Joint Council 7 tells us,
Jose Hernandez is not just a former astronaut and current candidate for Congress; he also used to be a member of Local 601 and credits the Teamsters with giving him a headstart on his successful career. 
Hernandez says he spent four summers working in the canneries while studying at the University of the Pacific. “I went from a job that paid minimum wage to a union job paying $12 an hour plus benefits,” he recalls. “That was big money in those days and helped pay my tuition and keep me in school. It wouldn’t have been possible without the Teamsters Union.” 
A candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the newly formed 10th District, Hernandez met on Dec 13, 2011 with Joint Council 7 President Rome Aloise and several Teamster officials seeking their endorsement.The district includes Modesto, Patterson, Tracy, Manteca, Escalon and Riverbank.
Considered the Democratic front-runner, Jose faces a June 5 primary and then (probably) a well-funded Republican opponent.

He has an inspirational story to tell. We learn from his campaign website:
Jose Hernandez was born in French Camp, California in 1962. For much of his childhood, Jose worked side by side with his parents and siblings picking crops across the San Joaquin Valley. Despite their humble beginnings, Jose’s parents always stressed to their children the importance of education and the need to work hard to achieve their dreams. After hard days in the field, Jose’s father warned his children that without an education, they would continue to work in the fields, and their future would be “on their hands.”
At the age of 9, Jose watched in amazement as Apollo 17 brought men to the moon. From that day, Jose was determined to do whatever it took to become an astronaut. With the support of his parents he laid out a roadmap for getting from the fields to the stars.   In high school he participated in Upward Bound, a program designed to give disadvantaged youth help with math and science, graduating from the University of the Pacific with a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering and eventually a Master’s Degree in Engineering from the University of California-Santa Barbara. 
Jose went on to become an engineer at the prestigious Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.  In his time atLivermore, Jose was recognized for his work helping to develop a way to turn Cold War technology into the first full-field digital mammography imaging system, which has become an invaluable tool in increasing the early detection of breast cancer. 
Jose was also nationally recognized for his work on behalf of both the Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy on Russian nuclear non-proliferation issues.  An issue that continues to be important to him today. 
Becoming an astronaut was not automatic. Jose applied to NASA 12 times and after failing the make the cut, he strove to improve himself, received his pilot’s license, became a master SCUBA diver, and learned to speak conversational Russian.
Pretty impressive, eh?